When couples decide to separate after being together for a long time, it can sometimes be difficult to determine one specific reason for divorce. We’ve touched on this briefly in our blog ‘Increments of a Relationship Breakdown’ but for those who have been together for decades there can be a whole lifetime of history together, and the situation can often be particularly complex. There are many reasons why a long-standing marriage may come to an end, but we have found the following issues to be the most frequent causes behind divorcing later in life:
The decades before retirement can be a difficult period for those looking after elderly parents and/or children simultaneously, especially at a time when they may have hoped for a little more freedom and financial security. Call it a mid-life crisis if you like, but many people feel a desperate need for change in their 40s and 50s and go looking for a new career goal, a new lifestyle, or even a new relationship, before it’s too late. Sometimes this quest for fulfilment is completely unconnected to their relationship and a marriage can shift and adapt to this new stage of life, but sometimes the root of unfulfillment can lie in their home life, and divorce is the first step to finding what they need to break out of this feeling of disillusionment.
An Empty Nest
As children become self-sufficient or move out entirely, the dynamic of a household can shift dramatically and couples may find that a large part of their marriage was centred on their roles as parents. Often this is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover what made them fall in love in the first place or explore how their relationship has grown and changed since having kids. Sometimes, however, couples discover that, subconsciously or not, they have stayed together ‘for the sake of the kids’ and are ready to start over once children are older.
Breakdown of communication
Difficulties to do with communication are a big part of many relationship breakdowns but for a long-term relationship this can be a gradually building issue that peaks in middle age due to any or all of the reasons listed above, the psychological and physiological challenges of menopause, or simply hitting the point of ‘enough is enough’. We can all become set in our ways or rely on old habits that aren’t always great for our relationships, and after decades of not feeling as if you can speak your mind or disagreeing about the same things over and over, sometimes there is just no way to bridge those gaps in communication. But whether you decide to stay together or separate, trying to be as honesty and open as possible about your situation is always the best way forward, even though it might be hard to do.
Sometimes, it’s just time. Even the healthiest and most supportive relationship can run its course and we all change as people over the years. Sometimes we outgrow our relationships. Sometimes we become different people. Sometimes our hopes for the future point in opposite directions. But none of these reasons mean things went wrong, necessarily—they simply mean perhaps it’s time to move on and part ways with gratitude and respect for the good years you had together. And all the more reason for the introduction of no fault divorce, due autumn 2021, which allows couples to submit an application for divorce with no grounds of blame or wrongdoing – by simply stating that their relationship has come to its natural end.
Sometimes a couple can change and move forward together, sometimes they can’t. But if you are divorcing after decades of marriage, hopefully you will know each other well enough to know how to work together to separate just as amicably.